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Sudan: Darfur to decide its 'administrative status' in referendum

Sudan: Darfur to decide its 'administrative status' in referendum

Sudan

Sudan’s conflict-ridden region Darfur, will from Monday vote in a referendum on the administrative status of the region.

Voters will during the 3-day exercise have to decide whether to maintain the region’s current status which is divided into five states or consolidate them into one region.

Sudanese ruling party supports the referendum but observers have criticised the move which they say will further strengthen Bashir’s control of the region.

The government can say negotiations are over since the referendum has been decided.

The rebels have kicked against the holding of the referendum because of the ongoing fighting in the region but president Omar al-Bashir insists the situation is stable enough for the process to go ahead.

Independent analyst, Magdi al-Gizouli said: “Organizing this vote at the time when the government controls a large part of Darfur and can massively mobilise supporters is considered as a challenge to the rebels who are calling for a united, autonomous area”.

“The government can say negotiations are over since the referendum has been decided,” he added.

According to the referendum committee, about 3 million voters out of a potential 4 million have registered for the referendum.

Darfur had been a unique region with many ethnic groups until 1994 when it was divided into North, South and Western Darfur. Two additional states were created later in 2012.

In 2003, armed groups of non-Arab origin felt that their region was been marginalised by Khartoum and launched a rebellion.

UN sources say close to 300,000 people have died as a result of the crisis in Darfur with more than a million displaced.

An international arrest warrant has been issued for President Omar al-Bashir who faces war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court.

Sudan has since 1997, been under a U.S embargo due to the conflict in Darfur. The situation continues to have a negative impact on Darfur’s economy.

_AFP, News Agencies _